Language and style

We will now address the language and the style of the poem “Talking Turkeys!!” by Benjamin Zephaniah and pinpoint some specific elements the author uses in order to enhance the text.

Playing with the language

Benjamin Zephaniah plays a lot with language in this poem. First of all, the title has a double meaning. On the one hand, “talking turkeys” means discussing serious issues. In this case, the poem discusses meat consumption and unnecessary consumerism. On the other hand, in the poem the turkeys actually talk, implying a literal meaning of the title:

“Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it
An humans are out of dere mind.”
(p. 29, ll. 11-12)

Another example of the poem playing with language is in the last two lines. The poet alludes at a turkey union “Turkeys United” (p. 30, l. 10). Also, he talks about becoming friends with turkeys for life. The last line may also refer to joining all those who are pro-animal life: “An yu will mek new friends ‘FOR LIFE’” (p. 30, l. 11)

When the poet talks about his turkey friends, he might refer to both the birds and to people who are cowards (turkeys) and do not have the courage to give up meat and to support animal rights: “Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys” (p. 29, l. 13)

Lastly, the way the poet uses slang and non-standard English is another indication of playfulness. It seems to say that it does not matter how a poem is written, but how it sounds.

Tense of the verbs

In the poem “Talking Turkeys”, the predominant verbal tense is the imperative, as the text is structured as an appeal. However, the author also employs present tense simple, past tense simple and future tense simple.

The imperatives have the role of convincing the recipients of the poet’s address of his ideas; of renouncing turkey meat: 

Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
An spare dem de cut of de knife,
Join Turkeys United an dey'
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